Weeding out the woodland….Failing to Succeed!

As you may recall from my previous post ‘Weeding out the Woodland’– we were attempting to get a handle on the perennial weeds that were dominating our woodland…..thought I’d share with you our results.

With a small area of the wood having spent the last 6 months under thick black plastic, we thought it was time to pull it back, give the soil some well needed recovery time and to get our hands dirty and weed out the persistent few that had emerged and were fighting for their place regardless of low to non existent light levels…….we had however underestimated the shear determination of ground elder.


Upon removing the plastic we were presented with nothing short of a celebration of ground elder growth, although pale and leggy, they were there to greet us in abundance! Waving their unfurling, under developed leaves around, mocking us for our naivety in thinking this approach would work. In terms of the war on ground elder we hadn’t even wounded the opposition in this small insignificant battle….let alone coming anywhere close to winning the war!

We could have spent the remainder of the day removing the new growth, digging and turning for as long as we could bear to attempt to banish the demon….but looking at the task ahead and realising that the invasion of the rest of the woodland was well under way (plus given that the site in question represented not even a quarter of the area we had to tackle), we waved our white flag! Ground elder had triumphed and as I admit defeat and start googling ground elder recipes*, a little part of me tips my hat to these infuriating perennial weeds. You have to admire the way they stand strong no matter what you throw at them, finding their niche in this demanding world and running with it whole heartedly.

Two weeks later and it’s as if no attempt had ever been made to halt its development. The area has reverted back to a sea of green with the ground elder being seemingly invigorated by the challenge it was presented with.

Our new approach is to try and out compete it with some established shrubs. As mentioned previously the rhododendrons would fit perfectly here providing a complexity to a relatively one dimensional wooded area.

Not wanting to get too existential but I actually feel at ease with nature as I succumb to this approach, embracing what has been thrown at us, acknowledging our defeat and along with realising how futile our efforts often are in attempting to ‘manage’ our environments. Nature will always find a way!  It is time to take a step back and just allow things to simply take their course.

All that being said….fairly certain I’ve just spotted this tenacious all encompassing perennial weed in our main garden planting bed……..but that’s another battle for another day!!! As cries of ‘Back to the war room’ echo round the garden!

[*Ground elder was originally introduced to Britain as a herb/summer vegetable by the Romans – it is meant to have a taste reminiscent of parsley with a hint of lemon and contains a high amount of vitamin C. According to those a lot more knowledgeable than myself you can pretty much use it in everything the younger leaves can be used similar to spinach and can be incorporated into pasta, quiches, risotto, soups, omelettes to name but a few, whilst the older leaves can be juiced, pickled or dried…….and so to the kitchen we go, watch this space!]


  1. We live with ground elder and other tough plants seem to cope with it. But I’m not adverse to some roundup assistance at times. However, if you were to strim it regularly for a couple of seasons I imagine you would then be able to add plants which would reduce it to invisibility by mid summer. I’m surprised it’s so prolific in woodland though – perhaps you have a thin canopy. No sign of it in ours. Xxx

    1. Thanks for the tip….always worth a shot and yes It’s a very high canopy so lots of light in there. It’s a loosing battle to be honest as it’s in all the surrounding verges so even if we do succeed I imagine it would find a way back 😩

  2. We had a bramble thicket and bindweed in the old garden. They did succumb to the black plastic treatment eventually – but it did take 2 years! Once they’ve been growing for a while they have a lot of resources to fall back on.

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